Browns’ Lewis ready to prove his worth against former team
It can’t be said that no Brown was more hurt by the punch line to Sunday’s road trip than Jamal Lewis.
After the sudden 26-24 loss to the Raiders, the 28-year-old Georgian’s face reflected the shallow hurt of man who cares but is too new to be family.
The pain was palpable in the faces of the long-timers. Kicker Phil Dawson (126 games in an orange helmet) and linebacker Andra Davis (75) were visibly sick. Those two are living a 1-2 start for the fourth times in five years; the exception was 0-3, last year.
Lewis comes from the other side. During his years in Baltimore, the Ravens started 2-1, 2-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2 and 3-0.
Those years are done. Lewis isn’t. No Brown is more motivated to beat the Ravens on Sunday. None will be in better position to make it happen.
He is the Ravens’ all-time rushing leader with 7,801 yards. To put that in perspective, Leroy Kelly rushed for 7,274 yards in his Hall of Fame career with the Browns.
He was 27 when the Ravens cut him, four seasons past his incredible 2,066-yard season (5.3 yards per carry). His three subsequent seasons -- 1,006, 906 and 1,132 yards with per-carry averages of 4.3, 3.4 and 3.6 -- convinced general manager Ozzie Newsome that 25-year-old Willis McGahee was a better option.
Lewis joined the Browns as a free agent on March 7 saying, “I’m happy that Cleveland stepped up. I wanted to get out of that deal and get out of Baltimore.”
Months later, after he had plugged into Cleveland, he didn’t seem to miss Baltimore.
The new offense used formation shifts and play calling that made teams pay for stacking the box against the run. Baltimore’s system had asked him to run through brick walls.
He never really slammed Brian Billick’s operation. He threw subtle darts.
Part of him was firing back at the noise coming out of Baltimore, where everyone was saying McGahee would be an upgrade.
“With Lewis,” Mike Preston wrote in the Sporting News’ NFL annual, “the Ravens were a methodical, downhill running team. The move to McGahee will mean more tosses, sweeps, traps and misdirections.
“The Ravens got rid of a veteran malcontent in Lewis for a younger malcontent in McGahee. McGahee is younger and more versatile.”
The early returns are hard to analyze. Lewis ranks third in the league with 307 rushing yards. McGahee is ninth with 272.
The Browns are 1-2, with Lewis running for 35 yards against Pittsburgh, 216 against Cincinnati and 56 at Oakland.
The Ravens are 2-1, with McGahee running for 77 yards at Cincinnati, 97 yards against the Jets and 98 yards against Arizona.
On the surface, McGahee has been more consistent.
However, in Lewis’ two forgettable games, the Browns trailed 17-0 and 16-0 and rewrote the game plans.
It remains to be seen what Lewis can bring Sunday against Baltimore’s defense.
He wasn’t able to do much all last season while fighting ankle problems.
In a revealing preseason moment, Lewis said, “I wasn’t at 90 percent at all last season. Under some good medication, I might have been 90 percent.
“It was very aggravating. It hurt violently ... very bad.”
Lewis’ recent 216-yard game supports his assertion offseason surgery and conditioning restored his powers. Don’t expect him to say much this week, but remember one other revealing preseason assertion:
“In the right system -- and I think this is the right system -- I could be one of the best backs, if not the best back, in the NFL.”
The Browns must prepare for two quarterbacks a second week in a row. This time, it’s veteran Steve McNair and former Round 1 pick Kyle Boller.
McNair is 34 and wearing down. Baltimore coach Brian Billick is selling the idea -- including to the proud McNair -- that using Boller on a limited platoon basis can keep the veteran fresh.
“That’s 20 fewer plays, five fewer hits, whatever,” Billick told Baltimore writers.
With McNair out with a groin injury, Boller quarterbacked the Ravens to a 20-13 win over the Jets Week 2.
McNair was back Sunday and built a 23-6 lead over Arizona. Boller relieved him while Kurt Warner was leading a Cardinal comeback. Boller stemmed the tide by going 5-of-5 on Baltimore’s final series. Boller has a career-high 64.7 completion percentage.
Do Unto Baltimore?
The Browns hope Jamal Lewis can ravage the Ravens the way he ruined them on his best days -- and that the Ravens won’t contain him the way Cleveland did in some recent games.
Date Att.-Yds Avg. TDs Result
Oct. 1, 2000 13-86 6.6 0 W, 12-0
Nov. 26, 2000 30-170 5.7 2 W, 44-7
Oct. 6, 2002 26-187 7.2 0 W, 26-21
Dec. 22, 2002 21-100 4.8 0 L, 14-13
Sept. 14, 2003 30-295 9.8 2 W, 33-13
Dec. 21, 2003 22-205 9.3 2 W, 35-0
Sept. 12, 2004 20-57 2.9 0 L, 20-3
Nov. 7, 2004 22-81 3.7 1 W, 27-13
Oct. 16, 2005 24-59 2.5 0 W, 16-3
Jan. 1, 2006 20-89 4.5 0 L, 20-16
Sept. 24, 2006 21-86 4.1 0 W, 15-14
Dec. 17, 2006 22-109 5.0 1 W, 27-17
Totals 23.4-127.0 5.4 0.75 9-3
Jamal Lewis is indelibly etched in Browns history. He is the all-time rushing leader of the team, Baltimore, that used to be the Browns. He leads Priest Holmes 7,801 yards to 2,102.
He was endorsed as a No. 5 pick in the 2000 draft by Phil Savage, who became the Browns’ general manager and brought him to Cleveland.
On Jan. 28, 2001, he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in Art Modell’s first Super Bowl since he bought the franchise in 1961, operating it in Cleveland through 2005.
He was a villain in a game that led to Chris Palmer getting fired, rushing 170 yards in a 44-7 win over the visiting Browns on Nov. 26, 2000. Trent Dilfer fed him the ball 30 times.
He rushed for an NFL-record 295 yards against Cleveland in the second game of the 2003 season.
In 2005, he used a 205-yard game at Cleveland toward a 2,066-yard season.
Lewis rushed for 1,524 yards in 12 games against Cleveland. Jim Brown rushed 1,544 yards in a 14-game season for the 1964 Browns championship team.
Run, Run ... Change
Jamal Lewis was a focal point of the Browns’ early series at Oakland until the Browns got behind.
First series: Eight plays, three carries by Lewis.
Second series: Three plays, two carries by Lewis.
Third series: Five plays, two carries by Lewis.
Fourth series: Three plays, two carries by Lewis.
Fifth series: Trailing 13-0, the Browns passed five straight times, losing the ball on an interception.